Friday, September 4, 2009

Poverty at Home

"I want you to find the poor here, right in your own home first. And begin love there. Be that good news to your own people. And find out about your next-door neighbor — do you know who they are?

I had the most extraordinary experience with a Hindu family who had eight children. A gentleman came to our house and said: Mother Teresa, there is a family with eight children, they had not eaten for so long — do something. So I took some rice and I went there immediately.
And I saw the children — their eyes shinning with hunger — I don't know if you have ever seen hunger. But I have seen it very often. And she took the rice, she divided the rice, and she went out.
When she came back I asked her — where did you go, what did you do? And she gave me a very simple answer: They are hungry also. What struck me most was that she knew — and who are they, a Muslim family — and she knew. I didn't bring more rice that evening because I wanted them to enjoy the joy of sharing. But there were those children, radiating joy, sharing the joy with their mother because she had the love to give. And you see this is where love begins — at home."
(That is an excerpt from Mother Teresa's Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech 1979)

Sometimes we need to step back and get a perspective that is not laced with personal concerns, personal fears and personal agendas. For all of us in the U.S. --- let's step out of the forest around us for a moment and look these maps of poverty in our country. The numbers have not changed that much since this study was done.
Let's take look at our neighbors:
In the 837 shaded counties below, more than 20 percent of the people lived in poverty in 1990.

This next map shows the 418 counties with more than 25 percent of their residents living in poverty. An Appalachian cluster remains distinct. The Mississippi Delta, the Four Corners area, and the Texas border come more sharply into focus as other regions of extreme poverty.

This final map shows the 193 counties with more than 30 percent of their people in poverty.

This is also this telling graph from the census report.

Now ZOOM IN to your home and look right.....and left.....
I am doing the same thing right now. I see neighbors I can do more to help.
Zoom out just a tad .....
I am doing this with you. I see people in community that I can help.
I have been on both sides -- needing and giving.
Sometimes it helps to simply have someone to talk to, to pray with, to offer a warm shower or a couch to sleep on. Sometimes it helps to just have a hug or hand me down clothes.
I have learned that, certainly, when you are without a place to lay your head or without food to feed your baby you NEED immediate help. I have also learned that when we are somewhat comfortable financially (i.e. not homeless) sometimes we NEED to give more than we know.

1 comment:

Tracy said...

Fantastic!! I love the words of Mother Theresa!!

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